Clay’s Corner for August 2016


Clay’s CornerProviding news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

In the many years I’ve been writing this column I’ve written about many sales of broadcast stations…in fact, since September of 1986 there are few stations around here that have not changed ownerships.     In the recent instance a lot of ‘firsts’ were made with the sale of KPLU.

Announcing the sale of the station, then, in a relatively short time, announcing the sale to someone else…Perhaps what makes this one remarkable is that the station is being sold to a bunch of their listeners.   If there was ever a demonstration of a station doing something right…This is it! I wonder just how many of this areas radio stations could rally their listeners to the point that they would want to purchase it to help insure that the format stayed intact?   Indeed the sale of KPLU is making history.   This event has attracted a lot of attention nationally as well.   A relatively new term comes into play here – Crowdfunding.   This is where a number of small investors come together to fund a project.   Typically this means funding a project where those that invest hope to see a return on their investment. In the case of 88.5 the return will come in a couple of forms – 1) Their expense is tax deductible and, 2) They get continued use and enjoyment from their investment.

It’s official …The sale agreement has been inked and now they wait for the approval of the FCC to seal the deal.   Perhaps the major question is what will the new call letters be?   It’s been made clear that 88.5 will have new letters attached.   In fact, if you listen, in places where they used to say KPLU they now simply state 88-point-5. The station has taken the unusual step of having their listeners included in the new call letter selection process.   I have to wonder if the KPLU call letters will end up at some other location in our state as has been the process with a number of previous call letter changes.

As we were celebrating the 4th of July in this country, just across the border there was another kind of fireworks going on. In this case at the 730 AM transmitter site in Delta.   Over the years I’ve written about fires that were threatening, or taking out, a broadcast transmitter site.   In this case it’s not a forest or brush fire, but rather the ground is burning as the site sits on a bog. Perhaps the name had something to do with the event?   The area is known as ‘Burns Bog’

One of the stations towers went down as a result– apparently a base insulator broke on one of the guyed towers causing the structure to hop off its base sending the lower part of the tower some 30 feet into the bog.   (Would have loved to seen a video of that happening)

Interesting that Peat has been used, over the centuries as a fuel. This situation caused several in the Seattle area to wonder if it could happen in low-land area transmitter sites here. The Bellevue Swamp comes to mind.

Tower - Smoke

AM 730

AM 730 in Vancouver has a very interesting format with a logo stating all traffic all the time. It’s also interesting that HD Radio has recently come to Canada’s second largest city and that AM 730 is now broadcasting on 101.1 HD3 as well as from a temporary AM antenna on a downtown building.

Reading the news reports you quickly came across the term ‘ Hectare’ (A term not used south of the 49th)   Fire reports were given in terms of the number of hectares burned..   Remember that Canada (for the most part) uses the Metric System….Therefore land area is measured using square meters which is broken down into Hectares.   To translate to more familiar terms …An acre is about .405 hectare…or a hectare is about 2.47 acres.   The fire consumed about 70 hectares and the area will take years to re-generate.

In this picture you can see the flames attacking the stations facilities at the base of a tower.

Tower Smoke 2

HD Radio systems are, slowly but surely, starting to be used for purposes other than a dumping ground for less popular formats to be used as ‘place-holders’ until something more valuable comes along.     Here in the Seattle area, we find HD Channels are popular for carrying AM station programming from co-owned operations, for instance, KIRO-AM is on 97.3 HD2 etc. For the life of me I don’t understand why KOMO is not heard on an HD2 Channel from their co-owned 101.5 FM. Foreign language programmers are welcoming the capability of HD channels, certainly superior to the old FM Sub-carrier systems of years past.   Another application is for unique formats. Entercom operates an all-blues channel that’s quite popular.   Occasionally a format is dumped by a station in favor of something that will gather higher ratings…If that format is still in demand, an HD Channel is perfect.   I am waiting for the day that these HD Channels show up in the ratings in this area …One of these days.

The sale if the CBS Radio group has been in the news for some time…Apparently no one was willing to pony-up the estimated 2.9 Billion for the 117 station 26 market group…So CBS is now planning on spinning the group into its own public entity.   This will be an interesting IPO to watch.   I suspect that this news brought a considerable number of smiles at local CBS stations.   Going through a sale is always a nerve rattling experience. One of the reasons CBS is spinning off radio….The division lost $136 Million in 2015.

CBS Logo

CBS Radio operates 3 FM’s and an AM in the Seattle Market.


94.1 – KMPS

96.4 – Jack FM

102.5 – KZOK

1090 – KFNQ
Meanwhile other big radio groups are in the news in different ways – Apparently things are not going all that well at iHeart Media with talks with their debt holders.   The dreaded ‘B’ word has been noted in print in recent media stories.           It sounds like the company is trying to convince those that hold all the paper that they would be better off riding out the storm – in the long run – as opposed to the ‘B-Option’ that would mean their ‘paper’ would be worth a whole lot less.         Needless to say, the ‘natives are restless’.   $20 Billion is a LOT of debt for any company to carry.   Locally, in the Seattle area, iHeart owns a flock of radio stations.


It’s interesting to note that IHeart tops the list in terms of radio company revenues at 2.6 Billion. Coming in 2nd, is the group that may shortly become on its own, CBS with revenues near $1.25 Billion.   #3 is another company that is burdened with huge debt, Cumulus.   Entercom, who owns clusters of stations in Seattle, Portland, Denver etc. came in 4th.   Portland based Alpha was #8 and Hubbard (who owns a cluster of radios in Seattle ) was #10.

The headline read – 126 MHz Cleared @ $86 Billion.    This was just one phase of the process of shoving historic broadcast spectrum aside to make more room for wireless gizmo communications.    Now to see what the Wireless bidders do.   Potentially a lot of money could be changing hands in this unique process.   There are a lot of facets .….For those of you that are interested, there is plenty to read about it everywhere.     My interest is what will it mean for the Seattle area…Who will be changing channels and who will take the money and run.

  NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton released the following statement regarding the conclusion of the first reverse auction:  “Broadcasters have done our part; now it’s up to the wireless industry to demonstrate the demand is there for low-band TV spectrum.”Ever wonder how the FCC’s recent actions involving TV will play along our borders?   This is a question that many have been asking for some time (Including this writer).   Anyone that has been involved with cross-border issues can tell you that this is a knot that, at times, is not easily un-done.   We can have our incentive auctions and repacking etc. etc.…But in border areas there are other considerations.    Markets like Seattle, Detroit, Buffalo (to name a few) certainly have something additional to think about.  Then what about those stations on the other side …How are they to react?   This whole shuffle is a US issue.    Time will tell…Meanwhile – Lets all hide and watch.

Some big programming changes at NPR – After 31 years the program Whad’Ya Know has come to an end.   The program was cancelled, according to exec’s with Wisconsin Public Radio due to financial reasons.   The other big news item was the retirement of Garrison Keillor as host of the long running Prairie Home Companion.   The show will go on with a new host with a lot of nervous affiliates left wondering

The nearest star (we call it the sun) has been acting funky.   In early June the sun went completely spotless for 4 days….It does not do that very often with the last time in 2011. Normally a blank sun is taken as an indicator that we have reached the solar minimum or minimum amount of spots.   The sun goes thru cycles that have been studied since 1755…numbering from there, we are just now leaving solar cycle 24.   So what does all this mean? A lot of things to scientists …One of the major impacts is on radio frequency propagation. If you are a radio DX’er or Ham Radio operator – you are watching with great interest.   Then there are those that feel this could be linked to changes in weather with perhaps a cooler time on the horizon?

For some time we have been seeing warnings about the impact of these flat-screen displays on us.   Concerns range from causing optical issues to altering sleep patterns and the bad things that take place as a result. Now some are expressing concerns about LED street lighting.  Can’t blame governments for replacing more power hungry devices, however, apparently the new/white LED’s suppress melatonin than sodium lamps.   Apparently I’m missing something here…If melatonin helps you sleep, would not you want a suppressed melatonin in street lights?   Apparently the harshness of the white light from the high color temperature (4-5000K) devices are sources of complaints of severe glare that can cause problems with seeing clearly at night. This all due to the amount of blue in the new lights. Yes, Seattle is installing these new devices.

Looks to me like a business opportunity here – A button on your TV remote you can push that will alter the picture if you wish to drift off – Or how about blue filters for the windshield of your car? …(In Seattle we don’t see much blue during the day anyway)

So the battle lines are forming – Burn more fossil fuels for older less efficient street lights …or have glare and sleep issues.

In my travels for NWPR I often come across some items that the average person can’t see because of locked gates etc.   Here’s an example – The power at Striped Peak west of Port Angeles.   This is an interesting site in that it’s right on the south shore of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.   The site is used by two radio stations, NWPR’s KNWP as well as KVIX which receives its programming from the soon to be former KPLU.   There are Cellular, State Patrol, a UW Seismic Sensor, FAA as well as one of the sites used for vessel tracking in the inland waters of Western Washington (That’s what the funny antenna on the top of the tower is used for). The site is administered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Utility Tower

Here’s an item that will be familiar to old-timers.   Those of us that work in the broadcast business are familiar with the EAS equipment that each station must have…..Before EAS we had EBS and equipment that went with that.   Before EBS we had Conelrad.  This gem (a bit battle warn) was an example of equipment from that era.

The frequencies listed are (in order) 640, 1240, 710, 1000 and 1090




About the 8th of July it was announced that Day Sequerra was purchasing Orban.  According to reports manufacturing of the legendary audio processing equipment will be shifted to the East Coast to be co-located with the new owners facility while Engineering, R&D etc. will remain in Silicon Valley California.

According to recent research 74% saw news outlets favor one side.   This is not exactly surprising as our citizens have become increasingly ‘binary’ in their thinking.   A lot of this change is attributed to Cable-News where channels have laid claim to a particular political persuasion.    For those of us that are older than most – We recall when the news was (at least we thought) objective and just dealt with the facts.    Granted there were the Drew Pearson and Gabriel Heatter’s …but they were known commentators …and were not the entire network.  Talk radio has helped this process along as well with names you all know  along with stations and bill themselves as associated with a particular bent.    Perhaps all this has polarized our society to the extent that our elected representatives have forgotten the art of compromise.  Bottom line – Broadcasting, perhaps, should own some of the blame?


As luck would have it in our business – it was determined that the best time for KIRO to change out their transmit antenna at West Tiger would be the weekend of July 2 and 3.   Thankfully the weather gods cooperated….well sorta.   At least it did not rain.

Down came the old KBSG Shively Antenna that was installed back in late 1987.   Here you can see the tower being rigged for removal –

FM Bays on Tower

Steve Lemay and crew had the old antenna on the ground in about 2 hours – removing it a few pieces at a time-

Single FM Bay

After nearly 30 years in the air – You’d expect to find something interesting when the old girl came down …and we were not disappointed – Here’s a look at one of the inner connectors that has been stressed more than once.

Heliax Inner

Here you can see the 4 brown pods (radomes) of the old antenna …In the foreground the black item is a part of one of the new antenna bays.

On Ground

One of the new antenna bays preparing to be hoisted up the tower –

Going Up


Despite the summer fog on the mountain – it remained dry as the new antenna took shape

Antenna in Fog

The new antenna, like the old one, is a center-fed 4 bay.   Just below the KIRO-FM/97.3 antenna is the Master Antenna used by several stations at the site.  You can just make out the ‘basket’ behind one of the top bays.    The master antenna, also made by ERI, was installed on the tower about a year after the original 97.3 array.

Time once again for a look at the radio ratings for the Seattle area. These comments are based on the 12+ numbers from June-


  • 36 Stations Listed
  • Looking at the top 10 –             The #1 Station is Hubbard’s KQMV            1 is a Non-Commercial (KUOW)
  •             7 are transmitting from West Tiger, 2 from Cougar and 1 from Capital Hill
  •             No surprise, all are FM’s
  • Looking at the bottom 10, 4 are AM’s
  • Lowest rated is an AM – KFHZ/1090 – (a 50 Kw facility)
  • Highest rated AM – KIRO/710 at #11 – Next highest rated AM, KOMO @ #16
  • Non-Commercial stations are doing pretty well –             #17- KPLU            #28- KNHC            #34- KVTI
  •             #29- KBCS
  •             #26- KEXP
  •             #7 – KUOW
  • Some stations are not listed in the ratings for various reasons, i.e., there are more than 36 radio stations in the Seattle area.          A short while ago the Seattle times magazine ran a story about Vashon. Having been there a time or two I gave it a careful read.   Noted mentions of the local Low-Power radio station and a DJ that does his show from the Island for an out of state station…But nowhere was there any mention of the major stations whose transmitters are there. Namely – KOMO, KGNW, KJR, KVI, KIRO, KTTH and KFNQ.   Total this up and you get 305,000 Watts of AM…You’d think that this would, at least, receive honorable mention

For some reason, market #1 in our country appears to be a magnet for illegal/pirate radio stations.   It’s almost hard to fathom what it would be like if the number of pirate operations in NYC were to appear in, say….Seattle, Portland, Vancouver or Denver.   Can you imagine 76 pirate stations in your market?     Now, add to that, the almost total absence of any government enforcement action.   Should I dare call this the ‘wild-wild east’?     Apparently, despite the efforts of the Feds, the number of pirates is increasing.   In light of the recent reduction in FCC Field offices, this information is not exactly what you would term encouraging.   Perhaps, due to political pressure, congress will deal with the issue….But not until after the leftover mud has been washed away from the elections.

  • There are rumors that the huge culvert is to permit passage of the recently discovered Tiger Mountain Trout.   Scientists are concerned that RF could be contributing to the issue <gggg>
  • Here’s both halves together – That truck could drive thru it !
  • Culvert 2


  • I’ve been driving up the road to the summit of West Tiger mountain for getting close to 30 years now and, over that period of time, seen a lot of changes.   Back in the late 80’s the road was quite primitive.   Since that time the State has opened up areas to logging and with that came substantial road improvements.   Later came the new road to the east summit and the new site constructed by American Tower for Radio and TV.   A few years ago they replaced a culvert under the road through which 15 mile creek flows (a tributary of Issaquah Creek) with a very large replacement. I recall asking why and was told that it was for the passage of fish.   Fish 2000 feet up the mountain from Issaquah and upstream from a waterfall?.   A couple of months ago I received a call from the local power company informing me that they were going to have to re-locate some 1500 feet of road and the power line that’s buried within it…..Again, the reason was because of fish. Huh? Apparently there is a rule that a road cannot be in close proximity and parallel to a stream.   So…..The State is relocating the road so that it crosses the stream at 90 degrees…and they are. Again, installing a huge culvert.   The following shows you how big. The trailer here is hauling ONE-HALF of the new pipe.

Big Culvert

  • In the event you have been off the planet and have not noticed…Samsung has become a huge player in the world of Electronics (and many other things). Late word is that they have committed $1.2 Billion (Yes with a B) to US research and project support for what’s call I o T (Meaning Internet of Things ventures during the next 4 years.   These projects will include systems for governments as well as consumer devices and healthcare.   Exciting to see and announcement regarding R&D.   Perhaps the scary part is knowing that RF spectrum is going to be part of the picture.

In communicating with Pat Otis at Tribune I learned that Don White has retired.   More things to make me feel old. Don and I worked together many years ago….and that Russ Hill also did so.   Taking his position is Jim Belsvig.

Other changes to note – Now that Matt Green has moved into the slot vacated by retiring Dwight Small…. John Mackey has taken the job at Bicoastal Media vacated by Matt.

Likely no surprise that there are now a record number of LPFM’s on the air….Many of these pint-sized radio stations are operated by volunteers with minimal or near zero budgets.   In the area of FCC rule compliance there is a temptation to compare them with larger commercial operations.   We need to realize that a lot of this is new and the fact that they may not have anyone on-staff with any previous broadcast experience. This matter was discussed at the recent Washington State SECC Meeting where some wondered how these operations were obtaining compliance information as they may be operating outside the conventional information distribution loops.   In some cases the new requirements for EAS, specifically the new ETRS could be quite telling.   Broadcasters are expected to seek-out rules and regulations, subscribe to news services etc. to keep up to date…But what about these new operations that don’t?   As an example – How many stations subscribe to –    What’s that old saying about ignorance of the law………..??

Another, no-surprise, news item is that the number of AM radio stations continues to decline with the total number looking like figures from the 1980’s.   As you know, I have been predicting that this process will continue until we reach the point where the remaining number of stations better represents the number of listeners to the legacy band.   Right now the number of non-commercial FM stations is approaching the number of AM’s.   The total number of broadcast stations….Radio and TV, stands at just over 31,000.

The Federal Communications Commission has moved ahead on its plan to add new event codes to the nation’s Emergency Alert System. signify “Extreme Wind Warning,” “Storm Surge Watch” and “Storm Surge Warning” so that communities can receive more specific and relevant alerts during hurricanes or other severe weather. Expect to see the three-letter codes “EWW,” “SSA” and “SSW” added to the commission’s revised Part 11 EAS rules.    Ted Buehner, Seattle WCM and longtime member of the Washington State SECC, told that group recently that these changes will not impact EAS in the Seattle area as these events don’t take place here.    What change  will impact everyone is the requirement for your EAS Equipment to process NPT’s as well as deal with the 000000 Location Code.       As part of the ETRS process the FCC is wanting to know what kind of EAS Equipment you station employ’s as well as the Software version etc.

Here’s a summary of EAS Compliance items posted to the Washington State EAS Remailer from the SECC Tech Committee Chair, Lowell Kiesow on July 20th.

There are FCC compliance deadlines related to EAS fast approaching:


  1. July 30, 2016.  Your EAS box needs to be configured to immediately relay a National Periodic Test (NPT).  The location code for both NPT and EAN needs to be set to 000000.  All current, and some older, EAS products can be set to comply.  Some units will require new firmware to work with the new codes. The Sage ENDEC model 3644 requires new firmware, which will be released in the coming days.  I know Sage is working hard on it, but don’t expect it this week.


  1. August 28, 2016.  All stations need to complete online form 1 of the FCC EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS).  You can register for ETRS at the following link.


  1. September 28, 2016An NPT will be sent via IPAWS at 11:20 am PDT.  All stations must immediately relay the test.  The ETRS day of test form, online form 2, must be completed by midnight.


  1. November 14, 2016.  The ETRS post-test form, online form 3, must be completed by the end of this date.


If you have any questions regarding any of this, please ask.  Barry Mishkind has written a nice ETRS how-to, at the following link.

Some new and perhaps encouraging information for OTA TV from a new survey. Here are some of the high-points –


  • 17% of U.S. households rely only on over the air broadcasting
  • 25% now have no cable or satellite connections.
  • Homes of 18 to 34 year olds are more likely to opting for alternatives to cable and Satellite.
  • Viewers over 50 are more likely to have cable or satellite

Personally I wonder how many cable subscribers are doing so for the speed of their internet connection?

I stopped by the studios of KVTI recently where Steve Reeder was looking a recently received picture of his old friend, Harrison Klein.   The first time I met Harrison was at an SBE meeting in Seattle where he was showing off his recently installed AM stereo operation on 1090 KING-AM. If I recall the receiver was a Sony that would decode the then various types of AM Stereo.   Later he would work for Westinghouse in New York as well as Hammett and Edison in California.   After living in Hawaii for 10 years he and his wife Sharene have moved to Amsterdam.   Here is that picture Steve had received –

Steve Reeder


My longtime friend, Nick Winter (KPLU, KLAY etc.) recently had his trusty Taco pickup totaled by an elderly driver in Tacoma.   Perhaps with over 325,000 miles on it …It was time for a replacement.    After a bunch of shopping Nick decided that his new ride would look much like mine (which I purchased last December).   We met for lunch at the Auburn Golf Course and got this picture – As you can tell mine (with the K7CR Plates) is on the left, Nick, K7MO on the right.

Shiny Red Cars

The Society of Broadcast Engineers has released its first-ever salary survey of broadcast and media technology engineers

For radio engineers, the mean 2016 salary, according to the survey, is $75,306 for SBE-certified professionals and $71,432 for non-SBE members. For TV and TV/Radio mean salaries, SBE-certified engineers make $79,616 per year, with $78,176 for non-SBE. There were no TV-only salary results released. No surprise to those of us in this industry…there are more Engineers in the 50 to 62 age range than any other group reinforcing what we all know – In the next few years there will be a lot of openings in this industry.   Unfortunately I rarely run into anyone that expresses a desire to have my job.     Come on folks – Putting chains on all 4 wheels to get up West Tiger is FUN !

Somewhat of a shocker – a new name in the audience measurement game – Shazam.   Already some big names are on board with the new firm –iHeartMedia, Entercom, Cox etc.   At this writing there are more questions than answers – Stay tuned to find out how this will work with the existing Nielsen system.

And now the time has come for some additional educational material to brighten you day –

-I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. Its syncing now.

-When chemists die, they barium.

-Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

-How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

-I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

-This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.

-I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

-They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a Type-O.

– Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.

-Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

-What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

-England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

-I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

-I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.

-I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

-Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

-Velcro, what a rip off!

-A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.

-The earthquake in Washington obviously was the government’s fault.

-I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.

-Corduroy pillows are making headlines.

-Without geometry, life is pointless.

-When you dream in colour, it’s a pigment of your imagination.

-Reading while sunbathing makes you well-red.

-A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

-Dijon vu the same mustard as before.

-Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

-There were two ships. One had red paint, one had blue paint. They collided. At last report, the survivors were marooned.

OK ….OK – I promise that’s all for this month.

Remember to get outside and enjoy summer. Here in the PNW, this is our shortest season.

Lord willing, I will been feeding your eyeballs with more of this kind of stuff, on most of this same computer next month.   Thanks for reading my stuff –

Clay, K7CR, CPBE etc.